Duke notched its first signature win of the 2017-18 season Tuesday night with an impressive 88-81 victory over Michigan State at the Champions Classic in Chicago.
The Blue Devils were led by Grayson Allen, who scored a career high 37 points and hit seven threes, in a spectacular showcase between the two top ranked teams in the country.
We were treated to a back and forth battle by two programs that showed why they have a great chance to reach the 2018 Final Four.
Here are five other takeaways from the victory.
1. Marvin Bagley’s Health is the Top Priority
Duke freshman phenom was off to a great start to the game with four points and six rebounds when he suffered an injury midway through the first half after being poked in the eye by Javin DeLaurier. Bagley was sidelined for the remainder of the game, but his eye was noticeably swollen as he sat on the bench during the 2nd half. Hopefully it’s a minor issue and he’s back to 100% for the Blue Devils in the next few days. Without him in the lineup, Duke’s athleticism and frontcourt depth becomes much more limited.
2. Grayson Allen Looks like a Player of the Year Candidate
Grayson Allen was the best player on the court Tuesday night and showed why he entered last season as the Preseason National Player of the Year. He played with poise, control, and was unbelievable from beyond the 3-point line, where he was 7-of-11. Allen finished with a career high 37 points and hit two huge shots down the stretch to help extend Duke’s lead and put the game out of reach. Allen was also noticeably more vocal with his young teammates and seems to be asserting himself as the leader of the group.
3. Trevon Duval is the X-Factor
When asked after the game about his own performance, Grayson Allen’s first response was to credit Trevon Duval. Though the freshman point guard struggled with his shot, he was tremendous in every other aspect of the game. Duval had 17 points, 10 assists, 6 steals and 3 rebounds. Most importantly, he looks very comfortable running Duke’s offense and finding his teammates, which has been a key element to Allen’s early season success.
4. Duke Effectively Used a Zone Defense
Mike Krzyzewski deserves credit for implementing a 2-3 zone defense that Duke executed for the entire game against Michigan State. It was weird to see the Blue Devils solely rely on a zone, but it was a great gameplan in facing an opponent with limited outside shooting and it also seemed to neutralize Michigan State star Miles Bridges for much of the game. Duke also did an outstanding job rebounding out of the zone, finishing with a +11 rebound margin over the Spartans.
5. A Team Built to Withstand a Poor Shooting Night
For many previous Duke teams, a poor shooting night would likely lead to a loss, particularly against top opponents. On Tuesday night, the Blue Devils were able to overcome shooting only 39% from the field and 65% from the free throw line to still earn an 8-point victory over the No. 2 team in the country, while also playing without its most talented player for most of the game. Duke overcame the poor shooting night by forcing 20 turnovers and dominating the glass, two key elements that make this team extremely potent. Let’s hope it’s a sign of things to come.
Duke is now 3-0 and ranked No. 1 in the polls. The next game for the Blue Devils is Friday night against Southern at Cameron Indoor Stadium.